The first gift of the "Getting It... Together" weekend came when I arrived in time to sit in on the last hour of a morning class. The week leading up to this celebratory weekend was "smicha students' week." The ALEPH ordination programs students, faculty, and some musmachim (alumni), have been here all week learning, praying, being together. I got to sit in on the last hour of Reb David and Reb Shohama's morning class, which meant that not only did I get to see some dear friends teach, but I also got to hear the new melody for the angel song which Shir Yaakov had written during the class. (Holy wow.)
The second gift of the weekend came during the opening program, when I got to hear our special guests -- among them Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, Blu Greenberg, Rabbi Moshe Waldoks, and Rodger Kamenetz -- offer reflections and remembrances of Reb Zalman. I particularly remember Reb Moshe making us laugh and also reminding us of Reb Zalman's profound teaching that each of us can be a rebbe -- and it's not only that we can, but that we're obligated to. And Rodger's words to Reb Zalman, spoken so sweetly, about how in Reb Zalman's voice and heart one became lebn, beloved.
We closed that program by singing again the three-part zhikr which we sang at the Remembering Reb Zalman celebration last year. The power of those melodies and words is multiplied in the experience of singing them with others to whom they have meaning. Then came the gift of evening prayer. I got to daven with two of my beloveds beside me, and others in front of me, and still others behind me -- like the angels in the angel song. What was I just saying about the power of prayer being redoubled in the experience of singing with others to whom the words of our liturgy have meaning? That.
The fourth gift came when two of the ALEPH student hazzanim led us in the full Birkat HaMazon, the grace after meals. Which we sang with all of the well-loved rigamarole, from pounding on the tables, to the silly and sweet after-joys of the niggunim which naturally follow. ("What's the fifth letter of the Hebrew alef-bet?" "HEY!" Yai, di dai, di dai, di dai dai dai di dai di dai di dai dai dai dai dai, HEY!) I rejoiced watching people who are dear to me dancing arm in arm as we sang praises. Then there were niggunim and zemirot. Shabbat melodies, sung with gusto and heart. Songs of yearning; songs of joy.
And then I retired with a few dear friends, and a bottle of wine and a bottle of fig arak and two guitars, and we sang and reminisced and sang (and sang) for another few hours. It was as though the davening had never stopped -- prayers, Hebrew songs, melodies old and new, we just kept singing. I stayed up far too late. I woke far too early. Usually I guard my sleep fiercely! But I woke with a song on my lips and in my heart, and the joy of the melody lifted me. Perhaps I have been temporarily transmuted into an angelic being who subsists not on food and sleep but on the sheer joy of togetherness and praise.